Annotations: ‘Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne’ #2 [Spoilers]
"Return of Bruce Wayne" #2 is out, and it's amazing -- even better than I expected, and my expectations were pretty high. There's always a lot going on in a Grant Morrison comic, so we're back with detailed annotations to help you take it apart.
You may want to check out our annotations for "Return of Bruce Wayne" #1, and I also annotated "Batman and Robin" #10-12 annotations over at Funnybook Babylon, since these stories are fairly intertwined. This issue jumps forward in time to an ill-defined year in the Puritan era, and picks up plot strands not only from Morrison's "Batman" but also further from "Final Crisis" as well as the fifth-dimensional universal model first placed forward in "52." SPOILERS FOLLOW.Page 1: We return to the Final Fantasy fight scene already in progress at the end of #1, although Bruce has taken off his utility belt and is now freaking out.
Page 3: I can't make heads or tails of the Cthulhuese here - it seems to be total gibberish, and not some clever code Morrison has implanted, or even phonetically rewritten song lyrics or something. Annie's a witch and this is her familiar; the entire setup of this situation, where she wants Bruce to stay forever, is pretty clearly reminiscent of Calypso's segment in Homer's "Odyssey" where she wants Odysseus to chill with her forever, but he's got to get home. The stone pendants are almost definitely from the symbols Bruce drew in the cave back in the stone age; it's curious that Metron's sigil isn't with these three. Still, it's interesting that in the DC Universe, this basically means that the "sigils" of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman have been being charged since the very beginning of civilization, hence the immediate power they hold over the people of the DCU.
Bruce doesn't seem to remember that his last name is "Wayne," but he certainly remembers that it starts with a "W." Annie seems tuned-in enough to be able to sense Darkseid's Omega Sanction and its radiation around Bruce.
Page 4: Vanishing Point, created by Dan Jurgens as the home base of the Linear Men in "Adventures of Superman" #476, is exactly what it's shown as here: the last bastion of matter at the end of the universe. The 64th Century is the home of Flash villain Abra Kadabra, whose entire gimmick is basically the Arthur C. Clarke "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic" quote. I'm not sure that it's been visited very much, or whether the biorganic archivists have showed up previously as a thing. It's a weird team chosen here - Rip Hunter and Booster Gold make perfect sense and pick up from their ongoing and "52," and Superman's got extensive multiverse experience as well as being Bruce Wayne's #1 boy, but I have absolutely no idea what the hell Hal Jordan is doing there. These guys and their adventures are going to be further built on in the "Time Masters: Vanishing Point" series by Dan Jurgens that starts in July.
Page 5: It sounds like the reason Vanishing Point is all screwy will be expanded on in the "Time Masters" series, since I'm not sure why the anti-entropy aegis that keeps it alive and frozen in time will fail in 9:37. And now, Grant Morrison explains 8th grade Euclidan Geometry, but with time -- and make sure to note the archivist's little bat/devil-ears.
Page 6: And we're back to the cosmic cartography alluded to in "Final Crisis." This is the full explanation of a model that Morrison's been operating off of since "52," a hybridization of Hypertime, string theory and the classic DC Universe, essentially making them all one and the same.
A few thoughts: First of all, that's a hell of a lot more than fifty-two strings, so it certainly seems like the elimination of the Monitors has allowed the multiverse to regrow indefinitely. This is definitely related to the multiversal model from "Final Crisis," since Superman makes reference to those experiences in this dialogue. Additionally, the names "Space A" and "Space B" finally place two major incidents in Morrison's past work into context.
First of all, in "52" Week 47, Animal Man is able to get home to Earth after being instructed by the yellow aliens that gave him his powers to travel through Space B by taking the powers of a Sun-Eater, which apparently uses Space B to migrate. Secondly, back in "Batman" #674, Bat-Mite claimed to be from the Fivefold Expansion of Zrfff in Space B to "prepare [Bruce's] passage." It's possible that Bat-Mite was almost a finder beam from the Omega Effect, getting him before he was hit and preparing him to be Darkseid's weapon in this miniseries, since the no-Bruce, all-survival Batman we're seeing is very similar to his Zur En Arrh incarnation.
Page 7: The Cube Time is, of course, us. I'm not sure what recent adventure Rip Hunter is referring to; it might have been fighting Mr. Mind in Space B (which seems to basically be the Bleed) in "52." The hyperfauna that we see is clearly the same thing that's following Bruce, and I'm not sure if it's absolutely the case, but it's worth pointing out that it looks very similar to a Sun-Eater from "All Star Superman" (#7 particularly), it travels in Space B like the Sun-Eater, and every time it comes out to grab Bruce the sun goes out. I think it just might be a Sun-Eater, summoned by the Omega Effect, juggling Bruce up the timeline on the cosmic loom.
Page 8: Here's amnesiac Bruce, going by Mordecai, wearing the clothes and name of the dead witchhunter we saw on the second-to-last page of #1. I was almost hoping at first that Bruce had nailed that bat to the church door himself, like his version of the 99 Theses, declaring his intent to Bat the hell out of this town.
Page 9: Satan's hairy? Bruce is looking pretty hairy himself at the end of time. Historical note: I'm not sure anyone would have described themselves as an Anabaptist in the 1600s, since it was largely a derogatory term thrown against them by other denominations. They're also more a group of believers that have settled into such as the modern-day Mennonites and Amish. Back to Bruce, his detective skills are certainly intact, as well as his ability to start creeping out a perp.
Page 10: Martin Van Derm is almost definitely an ancestor of the Nathan Van Derm that eventually builds Wayne Manor, so I expect we'll see more of the Van Derm family to come, and maybe even find out where they are today. Nathaniel Wayne here goes by the name Malleus -- Latin for "hammer" -- which is a clear reference to the Malleus Maleficarum, was a 15th century treatise on witches and how to find and punish them written by a prominent Catholic inquisitor.
Page 11: Bruce Wayne does seem awful soft on murder here, doesn't he? Even considering the circumstances.
Page 14: Here we see Van Derm make the sketch that he later turns into the portrait we see first in "Batman" #680 and later in "Batman and Robin." The Van Rijn he's referring to is Rembrandt, which dates this story in the mid-1600s - Rembrandt didn't live in Rotterdam and only went there a few times, so Van Derm must have been there and learning art at around that time. I don't believe we've seen what's in the book yet; it could come up in any Morrison Batman title at at any point this summer.
Page 16: This is likely the hyperfauna again, I'd guess -- the same incident that occurred when Bruce showed up, perhaps, or just its return in general. The statement about it fleeing the bats is interesting, though.
Page 17: I love how the first panel is the classic "Batman inspects a crime scene" pose. The line here about the eclipse being predicted is the only thing that makes me doubt my Sun-Eater theory, since that implies it's a celestial thing.
Page 20: The Bright Gods could be the New Gods, or they could be the Superman/Batman/Wonder Woman sigils. I'm also willing to bet you'd see like a 2000% spike in Native American religion if praying to their gods actually summoned Bruce Wayne.
Page 25: Once again, we see the hyperfauna freaking out at the bats.
Page 28: This makes the second time in recent history Darkseid's tried to weaponize Batman -- he really envies his skills. Still, Bruce seems fully aware and cognizant of what's going on, so it's fully possible that he knows about his own booby-trapping and has already worked out a solution. I'm also not sure why he's apologizing so much to Annie -- simply at the memory of her death, or because he's about to do something to hurt her? He's consciously not saving her? I'm not sure.
Page 29: Back to the past, as Annie curses the entire Wayne line. I'm unclear as to whether this applies to Bruce or not, or whether his appearance at the actual end of time is to try to rid himself of Annie's curse.
Page 30: I'm not sure if the third panel is supposed to be an old Van Derm passing down Mordecai's book to his son or his wife, but either way I think this is supposed to show that that book, and Van Derm's line, is about to come up again next issue.
Page 31: I guess they think Bruce Wayne is the Black Pirate. It's likely this next issue is set around the Revolutionary War, and will involve Darius Wayne, Nathan Van Derm and the building of Wayne Manor.
Page 32: Blackbeard?! Hey, that guy's not Ben Grimm!